Contracting rates spike in ACS survey

Technology costs for enterprises are on the march upward again, with 44.5 percent of independent contractors upping their rates over the last 12 months, rocketing from 29 percent in 2004, to according to the Australian Computer Society's annual remuneration survey.

The steep contracting increase jars in comparison to growth in average salaries paid to permanent ICT employees, which edged marginally higher by an average of 3.8 percent over the 12 months to May 2005.

The inflationary contracting trend lends credence to widespread anecdotal evidence the Australian IT industry is going through a lopsided jobs recovery with sustained shortages in areas such as high level integration and architecture skills, while applications development and coding positions are moved to cheaper, offshore destinations.

But the news was not all good for contractors, with some 13 percent saying they had taken a haircut and dropped their rates over the last 12 months.

Government pay rises, averaging 3.6 percent, are also trailing the private sector which recorded an average 4 percent increase.

However, the ACS said the rises were at best modest in real terms after factoring in an inflation rate of 2.4 percent (Consumer Price Index) over the same period.

The survey does not indicate what impact the tax cuts contained in the 2005 Federal budget will have.

ACS president, Edward Mandla, said while the results gave some comfort, "future forecasts for the industry remain clouded by issues such as high unemployment, offshoring and an uneven supply of skills in key employment areas".

Mandla added skills supply within the industry remains patchy.

"As offshoring continues to bite, any gains in employment continue to be eroded. Today employers want graduates ready to go with hard skills such as security, Web services, wide area networking, voice over IP, wireless, customer relationship management, workflow and document management, enterprise application integration and enterprise resource planning," Mandla said.

The 2005 Australian Computer Society Remuneration Survey was conducted by the Association of Professional Engineers, Scientists and Managers, Australia.

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